Tour de White Rock Peace Arch News Road Race
Meier Gets Big Victory At Home, Brynjolfson Returns Home To Win At Tour De White Rock
Christian Meier competes on cycling’s biggest stages as part of the World Tour peleton, but his first trip to the top of a BC Superweek podium was special.
Meier bridged up to, and chipped away at an early breakaway, then dropped the final two riders on the last of several tough climbs to win the Peace Arch News Road Race at the Tour de White Rock on Sunday. For Meier, who now rides in Europe for Orica-GreenEDGE, including this year’s Giro d’Italia, it was a long time coming after years of racing BC Superweek in more of a support role, either as part of bigger pro teams, or for his current teammate, Svein Tuft.
“With my physique, this is the race that suits me the most in all of BC Superweek, so to be able to win it for the first time is a fantastic feeling,” said Meier. “I’ve been on the podium once or twice but this is the first victory here.”
Meier finished the grueling 134-kilometer race in three hours, 34 minutes and 26.16 seconds, shaking New Zealand’s Joseph Cooper of PureBlack Racing half way up the final climb. He’d already dropped Optum Pro Cycling’s Ken Hanson, who won the Gastwon Grand Prix and Giro di Burnaby, at the bottom of that hill.
“I attacked straight from the bottom of the hill,” Meier said. “As soon as I attacked Hanson was straight out. Cooper came with me until half way up, and finally he cracked and I turned on the screws and gave it everything I had. I knew I had to put the pressure on because Cooper on the final big laps was putting pressure at the top of the climb. I knew I had to wear him out over the length of the climb.”
After doing 11 laps around a longer 10.1-kilometer circuit that includes a brutally steep climb, Meier began dropping riders on the front after the men moved into the shorter 3.8-kilometer course for the final six laps, including one big climb. Only 18 of the 81 riders that started the race made it to the finish line.
“This race is special that way, because it is such a race of attrition and so undulating and difficult, so when the legs go, they go,” Meier said.
Coming around the final corner to an uphill finish, it was no longer in doubt for Meier, a 27-year-old who is originally from New Brunswick, but cut his teeth racing for the local Symmetrics team that used to dominate BC Superweek, and now calls the lower mainland home when he’s not racing in Europe.
“It’s great because he’s been knocking at the door so much and it’s important to come and win in your hometown,” said Tuft, who lost almost four minutes to a mechanical problem on his first lap and considered calling it a day.
Instead, Tuft, who won the White Rock Road Race in 2010 and dominated the Criterium on Saturday night for his third victory of this year’s BC Superweek, chipped away at the deficit to finish fourth – just 14 seconds behind Hanson.
“There was a moment I knew I was like four minutes down, where I thought maybe I’ll pack it in for the day, just ride home,” said Tuft, explain a lock ring that holds the back wheel on came loose, and when they took it off, “every gear blew out all over the road,” making for a long repair. “First time it’s ever happened.”
“But we’re here to race hard and it’s been a big building block for our second half in Europe, so I just put my head down and tried to keep a steady pace.”
By the end, Tuft, an eight-time Canadian Time Trial champion, was taking as much as 30 seconds out of the lead. But the 35-year-old Langley native waited a little too long to launch his final attempt to bridge to the lead group, largely because he didn’t want to bring any other riders with him up to Meier.
“I knew with Christian, the way he’s climbing these days, he’s not going to have much trouble dropping these other guys on the climb,” Tuft said.
“The group I was with, I kept yelling at them, ‘the race is up there, it’s not me, I’m not going to ride you guys up to my teammate,’” Tuft said. “Everyone was just waiting and looking at me so I had to wait until I could get away by myself. I’m not going to pull anyone up to Christian. But that meant I had to leave a little later.
“A few more laps I could have maybe caught them.”
No one was going to catch Kristine Brynjolfson and Megan Rathwell after a strong early breakaway in the 80-kilometer women’s race.
The duo spent most of the race alone in front, steadily building a gap up to three and a half minutes before Brynjolfson won the final uphill sprint.
“If there was a break I wanted to be in it,” she said. “But when Megan and I got a big enough gap I encouraged her to roll with me, and we kept getting increasing time gaps so we needed to keep going as hard as we could to hold them off.”
It was a big win for the 42-year-old, who moved from Delta to Kamloops last year, but came back to BC Superweek with the local Trek Red Truck team
“It means a lot, my parents came out and they were excited to see me win,” said Brynjolfson. “Riding for a local team at a local race – I’m pretty happy.”
Making that feat more impressive was the fact Brynjolfson had to put her own chain back on three times during the race, which left her doubtful it would hold for the final sprint. It did, and she crossed just ahead of a gassed Rathwell.
“I’m not a sprinter so I haven’t won many bunch races so this is a big win for me,” she said. “Typically she has a little better sprint but I knew she was hurting.”
Rathwell, riding out of Victoria for Russ Hays/Accent Inns, had to settle for second – and winning the Queen of the Mountains as the best climber.
“I really wanted to win this,” said Rathwell, a strong climber who finished third in a bunch sprint at last year’s race. I like climbing and there are not too many climbing races in B.C. unfortunately. I’ve been able to outsprint her in crits this week too, but sprinting up Columbia took it out of my legs. She deserved it.”
Rathwell was surprised the rest of the field didn’t try harder to reel her in.
“I thought Rhae Shaw would try to track us down,” she said.
Shaw did. In fact, she was leading before suffering the first of two flat tires at the top of a big climb, forcing the reigning Canadian Criterium Champion and winner of Saturday’s White Rock Criterium to play catch up all by herself. Shaw, who competes in Europe with the National Team and rides for Exergy Twenty12 out of Seattle, got back to the main group and finished sixth after a final sprint for third won by Quebec’s Joanie Caron of the Colavita espn-W Pro Cycling team.
Omniums or Overall Titles
That clinched the women’s overall title for BC Superweek for Caron, while Carrie Cartmell, who won Friday’s Hillclimb, finished fourth to claim the Tour de White Rock omnium, or overall, title in a tiebreak ahead of Shaw.
Germany’s Florenz Knauer won a sprint for seventh place to take the men’s overall for both the Tour de White Rock and the nine-race BC Superweek.
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